Throughout the Humboldt community, the clear demand for more salsa music was met in March 2020 by the 15-piece salsa orchestra, Tropiqueño. They are a mix of individuals with a passion for celebrating Caribbean culture through salsa music.
Fellow band member, Eric Tolfa, had a love for salsa music even though he did not grow up listening to it. He was able to get momentum on forming the band when he connected with Nick Camacho, who grew up listening to salsa music as part of his Puerto Rican heritage. Every band member has different experience levels.
“No one in the band has experience playing salsa before and actually doing this style of music, so it’s all new to all of us,” said Tolfa.
Some of the classic salsa artists that they cover include Celia Cruz, Willie Colon and Roberto Roena. This was not much of a challenge for some of the singers, as they were deeply immersed into salsa music in their upbringing.
“All of the lady singers are from Puerto Rico, so we’re playing this music for the first time but we all grew up with it, we just fell into it pretty easily,” said vocalist Rocio Cristal Talavera.
Overall, people have responded positively to Tropiqueño’s performances, especially with community outreach. Some organizations that have contacted them to share their Caribbean sound have been The Red Roof Inn, Casa Foundation and the Community United of North Arcata.
“Oscar from CUNA is always kind of like reaching out like ‘hey let’s get some music for the people that they identify with,” said Talavera. “We have a huge Latin crowd at shows, they kind of come out of the woodwork for that.”
More than just delivering Caribbean culture to the people of Humboldt, Tropiqueño also allows for some of the band members to connect with their own roots and others to express their cultural appreciation.
“We are Spanish speakers and we are really familiar with the songs so it was kinda natural,” said vocalist Lyza Padilla.
Tropiqueno member, Ray Triana-Bass, shared how being a part of this salsa band has provided him the space to reconnect with his Cuban heritage. His father experi-
enced lots of racism when he first migrated to the United States from Cuba in the 1960s. This forced assimilation onto some members of his family.
“It’s been really awesome because there’s something kind of lacking with my Cuban roots,” said Traina-Bass. “My mom and dad sent me a guayabera so I could wear it for shows.”
Other band members have grown to be truly inspired by the musicians they are sur- rounded by. Rebekka Lopez acknowledges the support that her fellow band members show one another and the feelings after seeing the crowd’s response to their music.
“For me the biggest payoff is just watching people dance,” said Lopez. “I just think the most important part of music is the interaction that the musicians get with the audience. It’s not music if there’s nobody there to enjoy it.”
Check out Tropiqueño’s Instagram @tropiqueno__ or connect with them on their Facebook page @tropiquenoband for upcoming events.